A LIFETIME OF HANDY HOUSEHOLD HINTS
from the Filth & Greed Garage
by Denton R. Fender
- Plastic bubble wrap packing material (with the small bubbles) makes a dandy fender cover, and you can cut it with scissors to fit odd-shaped body panels. If it gets messed up during the project, just throw it away.
- Re-lamp the fluorescent light fixtures in your garage/shop every few years. Fluorescent tubes don't burn out, but they slowly grow weaker over time. You'll be amazed at the extra light you get.
- Clean out a 5-gallon plastic paint bucket, fill it with water, and throw your oily shop rags in there. They can't catch fire under water. Add a little laundry detergent and you'll be pre-soaking the rags for the wash. Decorate the bucket with those extra sponsor decals that nobody pays you to put on your race car.
- Do a bolt check on your overhead garage door, especially if it is newly installed. You're sure to find some nuts coming loose. Tighten them and avoid having a heavy panel drop on your car or your head.
- Everyone has a big old carpet square to lie on under the car, but for added luxury also have a long skinny piece of carpet to sit on while you're working on the side of the car (detailing, doing brake or shock work, etc.)
- Did it rain at the autocross and all your tools and parts got wet? Immediately spray them with WD-40, then wipe dry when you get a chance. You'll stop rust before it starts.
- If you're using one of those "spray-on wipe-off" car cleaning products (like Final Inspection or some leather cleaners) when you are all done, go back and rub over the treated area with yet another clean and very soft dry towel, turning frequently to a new surface. You'll smooth out all the streaks and imperfections and swirl marks and pick up any spots you missed.
- Later, when you are cleaning your car polishing towels, put a glug of household ammonia in the washing machine with the detergent. The ammonia cuts the waxes and silicones. DO NOT add chlorine bleach when using ammonia, or you'll make poison gas.
- Put "Rain-X" on the BACK window of your car on and the side mirrors; rainwater or even heavy dew will run right off and you can see better. Works on the inside of your glass shower door, too!
- The best way to clean car windows is with some of the aforementioned ammonia in water. Scrub with a 100% cotton rag, and wipe dry with another (old cotton sheets or dish towels are great.) When you get to the car show, polish the outside of the glass with a wad of yesterday’s newspaper; the oil in the ink will make glass extra shiny.
- If your plastic headlight covers or plastic convertible window are all cloudy and you don't have any plastic polish, shine them up with some "Pledge" dusting spray. Makes plastic nice and clear for now, but doesn't last worth a darn.
- Your knowledgeable friend doesn't know any more about that technical problem than you do.
- Need a cheap dust cover for a car that's stored in a garage? Go to the local paint supply store (house paint, not auto paint) and get the cover that painting contractors use to cover cars from drips and overspray. Ugly as sin, but nice and soft, one size fits all, and they are priced right.
- You can successfully drain spaghetti through your tennis racket if the kitchen colander is in use for cleaning auto parts.
- The resealable plastic container for Betty Crocker frosting can be made into an excellent catch can for the radiator overflow tube if your racing association requires such.
- Photocopy the applicable pages of the shop manual and use the copies when you're doing a dirty car project, thus keeping the actual manual clean.
- Got frosty windows and no ice scraper? Use your credit card. Don't leave home without it.
- Have you added custom wheels? Check that your lug wrench fits the fancy new lug nuts; obviously they have the same thread, but the diameter may well be a different size. If so, add the appropriate wrench or socket that fits. Also be sure your new nuts will hold the spare wheel on. Otherwise you may have to carry a set of original size nuts for that. (Cars with run flat tires may ignore this.)
- When you're working on someone else's car, always fiddle with the radio. Change the station, crank up the volume, etc. This will drive the owner nuts wondering what ELSE you screwed with.
- If you haul a race car or classic car to meets in a trailer, write down the VIN and license plate number for the car, the trailer, and the tow truck and keep them in your smartphone. Then if all or part of your rig is stolen, you'll have the critical info at hand for your report. A photo of the whole rig is also useful, especially if you race or show something odd like a 1949 Thrashwell-Snailby business coupe that nobody among the Local Authorities would likely recognize.
- Cut the bottom off a regular 1-quart plastic oil bottle and you've got a useful rectangular funnel that fits in a lot of places where a conventional round funnel won't go.
- Got grease on your nice new shirt? Wipe off as much as possible, then rub a good glob of waterless hand cleaner (like Goop or GoJo) into the spot. Let it sit overnight, then wash as usual. No more dirty stain.
- If you're driving a vintage car, change fuel filters often and carry a spare in the car. All those fancy detergents in modern gas are loosening up all the mung and varnish inside ancient fuel tanks and fuel lines and sending it downstream. Filters are functioning as advertised and catching it, but then they clog and no gas gets to the engine.
- Remember those little "Do Not Eat" packs of silica gel desiccant that you always find in with your new shoes, electronics, camera, etc? They absorb moisture. Leave a few of them in the cockpit of your stored car during the "off" season. The ashtray works well to hold them, if your car is so equipped. Take them out in the summer.
- Car running lousy or can't pass a smog test? First check the air filter! Yeah, it is a no-brainer, but it is often forgotten and gets horribly clogged. If the engine can't get enough air it can't run right.
- If you are shopping for a used NA Miata (or any car with hidden headlights) open the headlights and see how clean they are. People who don't care for their cars never open the headlights and wash in there. If the advertisement says the car is a show winner or it was never driven in rain, and yet the headlights are filthy, somebody is fibbing.
- Carburetor is a French word that means "leave it alone."